Since the advent of the contraceptive pill most women have been able to take better (though not perfect) control over their fertility, at least when it comes to preventing pregnancies.
Over time we've become so used to making the mental connection between taking this tiny daily pill and not falling pregnant that it can seem to make sense to connect not taking the pill with falling pregnant, almost as a matter of course.
But while some couples do fall pregnant almost immediately after stopping contraception (and a few fall pregnant when contraception fails), for most couples there are at least several months of trying to conceive before anything happens, and some couples will have to wait years for a child.
Coping with the disappointment of getting your period every month can be hard, but there are plenty of things you can do to make the wait easier on yourself and your partner...
- Early disappointments - Given that we commonly spend years concerned with taking steps to prevent a possible pregnancy every cycle, it's quite understandable that many women who stop taking the pill are half expecting to fall pregnant almost immediately, and can quickly become disheartened when they are still getting a period a couple of cycles later. Even when we know that the reality of conception is more complicated, it’s hard to shake the simple pill-pregnancy connection. In these early days of the first few cycles it will help greatly if you read up on coming off the pill, how the impacts on fertility and your cycle, when you are fertile, and what the question 'how long will it take me to conceive?' has in common with the length of a piece of string. Now you know that you may be in for a bit of a wait with this baby-making business, here are some ideas getting through those tough days when your period does arrive.
- Exchange experiences with others - Whether you're adjusting to early disappointment along the conception trail or you've been trying to conceive (TTC) for years, talking to other people about it can be of great help. Exchanging experiences with other people can put your own situation into context and reassure you that most people take longer to conceive than they had expected, and that there's plenty of hope for the minority who do experience fertility problems. Places like ThinkBaby's TTC and fertility problems forums are great places to find support that you might not be comfortable asking friends and family for and to blow off a little steam when you're feeling frustrated.
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- Take a break - If you're using ovulation predictor kits or charting your cycle, chances are you're thinking about your fertility every single day until ovulation, and then thinking about pregnancy every single day until your period arrives. If this constant thinking is getting you down mentally it's almost certainly getting you down physically too, probably affecting your chances of conceiving and no doubt having a knock-on effect on your love life which can be reduced the status of sperm harvesting after a time. So try taking a break from cycle-watching and timing sex. Put away the thermometer and pee sticks, enjoy spending normal time with your partner, make love rather than baby-making sex, and...
- Distract yourself - If you find yourself unable to think about little other than pregnancy and babies then try keeping your mind occupied with other thoughts. Focus on getting that possible promotion at work, take an evening course, plan a holiday (preferably the kind you won't be able to take once you do have children), get out and see plenty of your friends, focus on getting fit, take on a project to improve your house or look for anything else that you will enjoy doing and will give you fulfilment in other ways. In short do all the stuff that makes you happy and that probably won't be so easy to do with a baby!
- Try not to test early - or often - Now that home pregnancy tests are so accurate, so early, and can be bought in bulk relatively inexpensively, many women trying to conceive develop an understandable but ultimately counter-productive pee-stick habit. Taking out a pregnancy test and using it heightens your expectations, after all, why would you take the test unless you were at least half-expecting it to be positive? Those tummy cramps you've been feeling, that metallic tang you're convinced of tasting, the sore boobs... Because you don't get a definitive negative answer with a pregnancy test you may find that you keep on testing until your period arrives, finally, and crushingly, confirming that there's no baby. You're already on enough of an emotional roller coaster without adding a few self-inflicted twists and turns, so if you can try to leave the tests in the cupboard until after your period is at least several days overdue and test at the right time it will help, honestly. It's not easy though, we know all too well.
- Avoid the blame game - When you don't fall pregnant straight after ditching contraception you may quickly start to wonder if you're doing something wrong, or whether one of you has a fertility problem. You may be tempted to start blaming yourself or your partner, particularly if you think lifestyle choices may be a factor - if there's something in your gynaecological history that you suspect may make a difference or you think your partner drinks too much, for example. But blaming yourself or each other will only release a wave of negative emotions that are unlikely to help your quest to conceive. Remember that it's perfectly normal for couples to take months and months to conceive and your doctor won't usually even consider fertility investigations until you've been trying for a baby for over 12 months. If you do think that changes to your partner's lifestyle may help, then try to present these in as positive a way as possible, 'I think it may help if we both try eating more healthily', rather than saying 'We're not conceiving because you consume too many pies and pints'!
- Insulate yourself when really necessary - While it's unreasonable to be upset with people who do fall pregnant and have babies while you're experiencing difficulties trying to conceive, it is understandable that it can sometimes be difficult to cope with other people's happy families and new baby celebrations if you've been TTC for a long time. Try to react in as positive way as you can to other people's good news but if you're really not feeling up to a baby-related celebration then don't feel that you have to go, there are times when it will be better for you to stay away.
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